Candidates vie for VEA District 1 seat in Pahrump area

Residents from Pahrump and surrounding areas packed into Valley Electric Association. Inc.’s conference center in February to see what candidates vying for the coop’s District 1 board of director’s seat had to offer.

The seven candidates, with various backgrounds, were lined up at a table as member-owners filled the chairs at VEA’s conference center at 800 E. Highway 372 on Feb. 20. Mike Hengel, executive vice president of communications at VEA, led the forum.

Hengel explained the rules to the candidates as he took the podium and told the audience the board position would last for three years for the chosen candidate elected to the board.

District 1’s board seat will be filled on March 22 at the district meeting, with registration starting at 5 p.m. at Valley’s conference center.

The forum went on for about 90 minutes, where each candidate was given one minute to respond to each question posed by Hengel. Candidates had two minutes to talk about their background.

After the background question, topics posed ranged from why a candidate felt they were qualified to lead a multimillion-dollar organization to their understanding of the cooperative model, along with programs within the VEA organization to community service efforts a candidate is currently involved in and how VEA could help expand those efforts.

VEA members in District 3, which includes Beatty, Sarcobatus Flat and Scotty’s Junction, are also choosing the board member to represent their area. Election night is on March 20 at the Beatty Community Center at 100 A Avenue South, with registration starting at 5 p.m.

Candidates to choose from

The pool of candidates had a diverse array of backgrounds, some that don’t include work in the energy field.

Some of the candidates included Andrew Alberti, a veteran, retired real estate broker and business owner and Peter Shield, local business owner and retired archeologist. Shield also has experience working with renewable energy.

Other candidates vying for a seat on VEA’s board were 30-year energy and utility veteran Jack Biddison, who also held a commission seat on the Public Utility Commission of Ohio; Michelle Caird, who has 18 years of board experience with a cooperative in Washington state; John Carrell, who retired from the power industry and has 35 years of experience as a manager and superintendent; and Tom Maher, who is retired from the power industry and was a former corporate training specialist.

Maher has also held other roles in the industry, including lineman, district manager, along with supervisor and superintendent.

On top of those names in the running, Peter Gazsy, a three-time incumbent for the board position, is also running. Gazsy has been in the community for more than a decade and works as a paraprofessional in the math department at Pahrump Valley High School and is a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association credentialed cooperative director.

Candidate stances

Several District 1 candidates vowed to uphold VEA’s guiding principals and agreed with the cooperative’s mission statement, along with vowing to be available to any and all members by phone or email.

Carrell and Alberti called for looking for ways to reduce rates within the utility.

“Why I want to do this is to understand and get back into the utility business, and as a board member, be able to help members in District 1 and hopefully be able to reduce rates, if that’s possible,” Carrell said as part of his statement on his background.

One of the questions Hengel posed was why a candidate was qualified to help lead the organization.

Answers varied, as experiences among the group of candidates were varied, some with long histories in the industry.

Shield spoke about his interests in the field of renewable energy.

“I believe my background in communications and my skills in that area would be a valuable addition to the board,” he said.

Others such as Carrell, Maher, Caird, incumbent Gazsy and Biddison, sported years of varied experience in the power industry or working in some capacity, such as a board or governmental body.

Alberti, though not experienced in all aspects of the utility industry, does have experience running his own automation and distribution company. He also worked for three decades as a real estate broker in California and Nevada and has been a resident of Pahrump since 2002.

How to vote

There are several methods to vote in the upcoming board of directors elections for VEA’s District 1.

VEA members in District 1, those south of Highway 372 in Pahrump, can cast their ballot online through March 14. Those members can access the login page at www.vea.coop. More information is on the ballot mailed to VEA members in that area.

Members can also mail their entry into the VEA, which must be postmarked no later than March 9 and received by March 14. Members can also hand-deliver their ballot to VEA at 800 E. Highway 372 by the end of the business day on March 21.

If those dates are missed, members can vote at the District 1 meeting at VEA’s conference center at 800 E. Highway 372 on March 22. Registration begins at 5 p.m.

District 3 VEA members also have several options to submit their ballot to VEA, including mailing it in, online voting and voting on election night on March 20 at the Beatty Community Center at 100 A Avenue South, with registration starting at 5 p.m.

District 3 VEA members can also check the cooperative’s website at vea.coop or call 775-727-5312 for more information on deadlines and other issues.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes